Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Shades of Grey

Hello! I've been having so much fun reading! I have a stack of books to review here, a couple of which I read a long time ago, but I've also been reading a lot in the past couple of weeks. That's the good side of unemployment. Unfortunately for my TBR list, I've been acquiring a lot of books that weren't on the list, so the list gets longer, while I keep discovering new books. It's a never-ending cycle, but I'm happy with that.

Also, I've been distracted by internet and magazine reading too, so while I've been reading books, I've also been catching up on everything else I neglected this summer while studying - blogs, my Bookmarks Magazines, news, TV, etc.

Finally, I've also been watching a lot of movies the past couple of weeks. I used the excuse that I was making a baby blanket for my new niece, but I think also the blanket was an excuse to watch a lot of movies. My Netflix queue is getting shorter, and my stack of magazines is shrinking too. So I suppose it's time to talk about the books!

Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde

Well, Jasper Fforde has done it again. He's written an interesting, crazy new world in which social standing is based solely on how much color each person sees. The main character, Eddie Russet, is a Red and he has been reassigned to the Outer Fringes due to nonconforming behavior. Still, he hopes to marry up into the Oxblood family and score high on his perception test which would allow him to become a head prefect. Then he meets Jane. She's a Grey, and therefore the lowest social level. She has the perfect nose, but she is angry and mean, and seems to be trying to kill Eddie for no reason.

There are all sorts of colorful characters in this book (pun intended). Jasper Fforde's strong suit is his cleverness - not just in coming up with a strange, interesting, futuristic society, but in coming up with town names, character names, and dialogue that is absurd but appropriate. More than once while I was reading in bed, I would chuckle. Mike would ask me what was so funny, but I could never tell him because it took too long to explain why it was so funny.

That's the great and terrible thing about Jasper Fforde books - they are so great that you want to share them and talk about them with everyone. But you can't just tell someone about it. You have to get the other person to read it, and then talk about how fun, clever and witty he is. Reading one of his novels is a great experience - wholly satisfying in its complexity and depth, yet with a tone of frivolity and silliness.

The only complaint I have about this novel is that it is the first in a planned series. There are at least two more books coming. Normally that wouldn't bother me - most of his books are part of a series, so it's expected, and the idea of more books coming in this series is exciting. But the problem is that the majority of this book was a set up for adventures to come in future books. There was a lot of character development and not a lot of plot. The last third of the book went by quickly, because things started happening. Until then it was difficult to keep all the characters straight and to determine which characters were going to be important.

I think some of the slowness of the novel was my fault, though. I started reading it this summer in the midst of crazy bar-prep study and stress. It was too difficult to lose myself in this book because the society and all its constructs were too complex to understand without a lot of rereading of certain parts. So I put it aside and picked it up after taking the bar. But I picked it back up too soon, I think. I was still decompressing and I didn't start over at the beginning, so I had to keep flipping back to remember things. My heart wasn't in it, so I put it down again. I picked it up again finally after a two week trip that was nonstop laughter with my family, and that's when it was really good.

I totally recommend Jasper Fforde to everyone. But if you're new to him, you should start with The Eyre Affair (the first in the Thursday Next series in which Thursday is a detective in the Jurisfiction unit and in which she fights people who would do harm to books) or the Nursery Crime series, which starts with The Big Over Easy in which Jack Sprat tries to figure out whether Humpty Dumpty was murdered or whether he committed suicide.

For more information, go to his website at http://www.jasperfforde.com/

Happy Reading!

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